Walk through this with Me
My father loves better when he is drunk
and my mother seizes the moment with her hands and body.
We are in the living room watching TV
my father kisses my mother on her ears.
We close our eyes first, disappear after.
As if to say our eyes cannot behold iniquity
As if to say our bodies will never be ripe and ready for this same ritual
As if to say love does not need other people’s eyes
As if to say love is too sacred to be public.
All the kisses I’ve had walked in through dark places
In boxes where I could not behold the givers’ eyes.
I have never made love with the windows open
Because sex is dark magic.
How else can you describe making a girl moan by just touching her?
I do not make love with the lights on.
Blood covenants are most potent in dark places.
They say God knows the number of hairs on my head
My lover’s touches make it possible for God to count them
They say this thing will anger God, make him take my life from me.
I beg him for forgiveness; beg him for one more day
Then tell my lover to touch me and take my breath away.
My mother weeps that her children are leaving home
She is inheriting space even her George wrappers cannot fill.
We’ve spent all our lives tumbling into each other
Stumbling upon our nakedness:
My sisters know when I had my first strand of pubic hair;
I know when they dribbled their first blood.
Our natural gifts are prying eyes.
We’ve lived all our lives unraveling secrets just before they are buried
We can smell a carcass miles away,
Our bodies commune with dead things
We can necromance truth out of darkness.
We tell truth by their hues,
Anyone coming into our home with a lie carries a different kind of accent.
We’ve spent all our lives unearthing secrets
Now we are moving away to learn how to bury them.
our prized possession is a family photograph.
the frame tilts from waiting for us to grow.
in the picture
my father’s right hand
is on his left thigh,
mortar trapped in his nails show you cannot drown a sea with a river.
there is a gap between my father and the rest of us
proof of a once lonely life.
we held a tape across the distance between him and us once
and found space enough to start a new family.
when we asked him about it he said,
‘to be a man is to be the emergency exit.’
my father believes he carries death with his last name:
he doesn’t want us to bear it.
the mortar in his nails are from the many graves he has dug.
I am 23 and my mother is still threatening to leave my father, us
there are dreams she sacrificed for marriage
my father cannot pay back
we know what places she won’t smile genuinely
the photograph is one of them
she carries a map of all the places life left her empty
we are navigating towards them
we are my mother’s revenge
our names have vengeful undertones
we are a loud people but only I have mastered audibility
she wants me to speak against all the lovers that left her
I speak against the government instead
Tobi Abiodun is a poet and spoken word artist born and raised in Benin City. His poetry cuts across the personal, social and political. Tobi is a multiple Slam Champion, holding titles in major Nigerian cities, including Lagos, Abuja and Portharcourt.
His short story They Say He Had Eyes Like The Burning End Of A Cigarette was longlisted for the Poets in Nigeria prize for Short Fiction and published in the Odour Of Death Anthology. He was a guest at the 2019 editions of both the Poetry Africa Festival in Durban, South Africa and the Lagos International Poetry Festival in Lagos, Nigeria.
His first poetry collection is scheduled to be released in 2020.